Most Sales People Have All the Right Answers, Few Have All the Right Questions
In our legal system, attorneys in the court room cannot make a point unless it is in a question form. The idea is to give the person on the stand a chance to defend themselves, or implicate themselves. Not too different than in the world of selling. Never make a sales point unless you can first make it in the form of a question. The most effective sales points are the ones the customer devised and vocalized. When done right, selling can be effortless. Let your questions do all the work and you will find customers confiding in you more.
Leading questions can be as bad as misleading questions. In my training sessions I see participants asking questions that allow for only good news. I wait ask them if they were in a court of law, what would be opposing lawyer shout out? "Objection! Leading the witness." Sales people insult customers with leading and loaded questions. In sales leading the customer is only pardonable when you have an unrealistic, overly optimistic customer who is leading and misleading the sales person on purpose, or inadvertently.
So here is an example of a leading question that is unloaded to get the customer to possibly fess up, I am assuming that time constraints are not the only thing that is delaying your decision. Is it possible that this has slipped off your radar screen and you are now on to more pressing issues?
Self-sacrificing and face saving questions such as the above are so liberating and effective because it shows you have the confidence to ask questions that at any time could bring to a screeching halt your sales agenda. These questions ferret out the truth sooner than later. Always be willing to exit or walk under unfavorable conditions.
You betray your customer's confidence and trust when you are not willing to ask deal breaking questions. These questions let your customer disclose negative news in a face saving way. Too often questions are heavily biased and heavy-handed towards qualifying customers to what you want to hear. Traditional sales people have a ruthless sense of self, product and mission that prevents them from being empathetic and customer-centered. The reality is only 1% of sales people have the gift of charm, leadership, inspiration and business savvy to sell without being customer-centered.
Thought-provoking questions require a lot of cooperation, transparency, interest and self-motivation on the part of customers. If they are uncooperative,or not willing to reciprocate good faith, you are in a deep hole. Selling is best achieved by questions, not by giving answers.
Good questions are never rhetorical, never dramatic, but quietly devastating in their acuity. With one pointed questions, talented sales people can lift the varnish off the best of ideas to reveal faulty reasoning. Customers sometimes speak in code and unconsciously hide their real intent in plain site. That is why good questions have to be courageous. It is your best chance to be an effective code breaker and to pierce the walls of customer's ambiguity.
Do not be afraid when the occasion presents itself to be an optimistic doubter, a professional pessimist and a composed contrarian. Customers really value your insight when you poke holes in their buying strategy, especially when it goes counter to your own self-interest. Collaborators are willing to ask tough questions and shake things up.
Conventional sales people need an extreme makeover when it comes to their questioning strategy. "It is time to ask smarter questions, not 20 questions," says Paul Cherry. Asking strategic questions is one of the hardest things to refute.